I’ve never written about the title of this column before. It’s based on a story about monkeys on a Pacific island who started to wash their fruit in the river before eating it. Once a critical mass of monkeys (say 100) had cottoned on to this improvement in their standard of living, monkeys on neighbouring islands started to do the same, even though they were not communicating in any obvious way.
This story - the Hundredth Monkey - is one of the great Urban Myths, made up by a sixties philosopher, Lyall Watson, to illustrate a phenomenon called morphic resonance, a term coined by the scientist Rupert Sheldrake. Sheldrake himself carried out experiments to prove morphic resonance, which explains why, for example, dogs know when their owners are about to return, and why the more rats complete a maze, the easier it becomes for succeeding and different rats to complete the maze, and so on. Humans also communicate through morphic resonance, or as Karl Jung called it, the collective unconscious. Viva Lewes might call it the zeitgeist. Malcomlm Gladwell writes about it as the Tipping Point. I see myself as one of the first hundred monkeys (or rats) creating new pathways, new stories, to help us live more humanly and within our collective means. Our society desperately needs a new story - or maybe we should revisit some of the great fairy tales and native traditions. Transition Town Lewes is a process of designing a story, or pathway - together - towards a more viable reality. I hope at least 100 monkeys will be at the Official Unleashing of Transition Town Lewes next Tuesday.